Will blog for food
Jonathan Strong has an interesting piece on the sometimes-fuzzy line between blogging and paid political advocacy. I think there’s quite a difference between getting paid by an ideological organization to blog (this is hardly any different than being a writer at an ideologically slanted magazine or newspaper) and getting paid directly by political candidates or taking money from an organization to blog independently without disclosing that fact. For instance:
Besides campaigns, industry groups and other political groups oftentimes pay bloggers for their insights.
Dan Riehl, who writes the Riehl World View blog, is one of Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele’s most vocal defenders in the conservative blogosphere. When The Daily Caller reported the RNC spent $1,946 at a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex acts, Riehl blasted the piece as a “pathetically weak story tailored to play to the Left and create problems for the GOP.”
“Riehl World View” readers might be interested to know that Riehl is not simply a blogger, but also a paid consultant to the RNC. In an interview, Riehl said he was paid an amount in the “hundreds of dollars” for writing a strategy document on how the RNC could better reach out to bloggers. Riehl said his motivation for defending Steele was to aid the Republican Party, and that he didn’t disclose his consulting work because, “I didn’t see it as having anything to do with my views.”
“I never made enough money to be bought,” he said.
Other bloggers openly lament how few campaign dollars are flowing their way. Conservative blogger Robert Stacy McCain complains that politicians aren’t purchasing more advertising on blogs. “Advertising buys good will,” he says.
If it appears that conservative bloggers are more likely to take campaign money than their liberal counterparts, there may be a reason. According to Dan Riehl, conservatives can’t rely on the infrastructure of foundations and think tanks that supports so many liberal bloggers.
Riehl has made it a goal to mobilize conservative benefactors and organizers to establish a funding infrastructure mimicking what the liberal “netroots” created during the Bush years. “They did it the smart way,” Riehl says.
While blogging is not at all the same thing as reporting, and readers of blogs expect opinions and partisanship rather than balance, there are lines bloggers shouldn’t cross and certainly full disclosure of any paid support from a candidate seems like an ethical first step. Paid advocacy for specific causes or politicians is simply not the same ball game as working for an ideological publication. If you write for a tech magazine you’re obviously going to write about technology, but if you’re paid by Nokia to write favorable reviews about their products then you enter much murkier waters and owe it to your readers to disclose that information – which, as it happens, basically discredits those reviews.